CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Pam K., winner of Julianna Deering's new release, Murder on the Moor!

Congratulations to Alison (agboss) who won Susanne Dietze's The Reluctant Guardian!

Congratulations to Deanna Stevens, Annie of Just Commonly and Trixi O...new owners of The American Heiress Brides Collection!

Monday, October 31, 2011

What's Behind the Mask?

 by Niki Turner

We didn't "do" Halloween for years. It wasn't really considered an acceptable practice in our non-denominational denomination. We either ignored the holiday altogether (we lived too far out of town to have any trick-or-treaters anyway) or we substituted "harvest parties" instead, so our kids didn't feel like they were missing out on all the fun.

Harvest party costumes for my daughter and oldest son a LONG time ago.

I've since learned that almost all of the holidays we celebrate are based in paganism and glorify something besides Christ. Christmas was originally a festival for the Roman god Saturnalia. Easter was a spring fertility feast celebrated by the Greeks and Romans ... hence the bunnies and eggs. Halloween, it seems, is one of the only pagan holidays the early church didn't find a way to infiltrate and "paper over" with Christian meaning and symbolism. I wish they had adopted Halloween, too, because I missed it.

It wasn't the fake skeletons and plastic vampire teeth or the crazy decorations I missed. I didn't even miss the candy – I missed that one night a year to put on a costume and step into character. One day in which it was perfectly acceptable to become someone, or something, other than myself. A day to express those bits and pieces of my personality that I kept locked away from public view for fear of rejection or humiliation.

My "Jonah in the whale" Bible-theme costume.
Is that part of the appeal of Halloween to a modern people who no longer put stock in scaring away goblins and evil spirits with carved pumpkins? A populace who barely believes in the reality of the spiritual realm at all? Is it the longing to be understood and the desire to be accepted – no matter how ugly or gruesome we think we are – that makes an otherwise bizarre holiday so appealing to so many?

Think about it, only on Halloween are we praised, applauded – even awarded prizes – for being the most extreme, outlandish, or ridiculous person at the party. (Unless you're Johnny Depp, and have made a wildly successful career out of being extreme, outlandish, and  ridiculous.)

This year, whether you "do" Halloween or not, I challenge you to take a second and consider the underlying reason the people you see chose that particular costume.
  • Does the zombie (a costume choice I have never understood) feel dead on the inside? 
  • Does the little Harry Potter or Hermione hunger for the supernatural power of God? 
  • Does the werewolf feel helpless to control his anger and rage? 
  • Is the pint-size princess (or the grown woman in the "sexy" get-up) desperate to be told she's beautiful and loved? 
  • Do the Green Lanterns and Captain Americas long to "go about doing good," perhaps?
  • And when the 47th version of a vampire appears at your door, remember, everyone wants to immortal.
Maybe, just maybe, as the candy changes hands or the party winds down, we'll see beyond the masks to the hungry souls on the inside and be able to give them what they really need ... not a treat, nor a trick, but the truth.

Just a thought.

Mother of four and grandmother of one, Niki Turner is an only child, wife of a former pastor, and writer of fiction, blog posts, Facebook status updates, a tweet here and there, and lots of long grocery lists. She also writes, copyedits, and proofreads for the local newspaper. Her first completed manuscript was a finalist in the Touched by Love contest.  





 

 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Crimson Tide


by Barbara Early


And no, I’m not talking about the University of Alabama.

Years ago, I knew a woman who…well, let’s just say she was a tad obsessed with her house. I don’t mean to be uncharitable; I don’t think she had a lot growing up, and it must have been a joy to her to build a home and fill it with pretty things.

But after she decorated her living room with Oriental carpeting, a lovely grandfather clock and custom furniture, she needed a way to keep it all fresh and clean and pristine. So she put plastic all over it and nobody was allowed to use the room. Ever.

The rest of the house was used sparingly. One day, she had a few people over for ice cream sundaes.  After they left, a spot was found on the kitchen carpet. (Yes, her kitchen was carpeted.) So she got down on her hands and knees and picked at the stain--tasting it to try to determine what the offending substance was--so she could choose the right cleaner for the job.

I’m not nearly as obsessed with cleanliness. (If you could see my house, that is painfully obvious.) But I’ve often contemplated her example when considering the ideas of holiness and cleansing.

The Bible word translated “holy” means “to separate” or “to cut.” When we say God is holy, we imply that he is separate from sin. Habakkuk 1: 13a says of God:  Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:

While I’m not implying that God is obsessive, His reaction to sin is similar to this woman’s reaction to an offending stain. She doesn’t want to see it--and if it’s there, she wants it gone. Obliterated. Not a comforting thought when I realize that I am, by nature and by choice, a sinner.

Some might say--No problem. See, that holiness is over-rated. And it’s soooo Old Testament. Our God is a loving God, and He loves us with all of our flaws.

And it is true God loves us. Abundantly true. Amazingly true. But it’s not our flaws that separate us from God, that offend His holiness. It’s sin. And just because God is love doesn’t mean He’s going to open wide the doors of His kingdom for a bunch of sinners to muck up, any more than the woman of my example would open her house to a herd of muddy pigs.


Not happening. Not unless they’re clean first.

And to get clean, we need the right kind of cleaner.

What can wash away my sin?

If you grew up in Sunday school, the answer probably comes automatically in song: Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Those of us not raised in such an environment struggle to find the right answer. We try ceremony, ritual, good works, turning over a new leaf, hoping the good will somehow outweigh the bad. Or that our sincerity will count for something. Some even resort to inflicting physical pain upon themselves. Martin Luther was one such person,  known to whip himself and lay prostrate and naked in the snow. Until one day he realized the answer didn’t lie in himself--not in his works or in his sufferings-- but totally and completely in the grace of God.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. --Martin Luther

Blood? Grace? Faith? How does that all work?

When we have faith (believing) in the grace (God’s unmerited favor) that we receive through the blood of Jesus, shed at the cross, we can be cleansed.

It’s by faith, believing, trusting--and not by any works or ritual.
It’s through grace, God’s unmerited favor--and not by any merit we can deserve or earn.
It’s by the blood, and nothing else. For Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission.

I love hymns for their ability to convey spiritual truth so beautifully. 

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. What can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Brighter than snow you may be today. 
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?--from Grace Greater than our Sin

Question: Has God recently used a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song to communicate truth to your heart?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and facebook scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder will be released from White Rose Publishing in time for the holiday season. You can learn more about her writing on her personal blog: http://barbearly.blogspot.com/ or see what's for dinner on her recipe blog: http://bflogal.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Seven Wonders of the World; and More!

by Suzie Johnson
I always get excited when I discover a new author with a style so distinctive I feel driven to read every single book they’ve written. Earlier this year I had a bookstore punch card that was almost full. I only needed to purchase one more book and I’d get one free. But none of my usual authors had new books on the shelves. I was a little disappointed, and I started pulling unfamiliar books off the shelf hoping to find something that intrigued me. After I looked at all the books, I kept going back to one in particular – Guardian of the Flame by T.L. Higley. Nothing like the books I usually read, the back cover copy was too interesting to resist.

It wasn’t long before I was caught up in an unfamiliar world that I wanted to learn more about. Needless to say, I've read every T.L. Higley book I could find. And now I get to share them with you. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.

Guardian of the Flame is set in Alexandria, Egypt, in 48 BC. Sophia lives in the magnificent lighthouse of Alexandria, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Widowed, bitter, she spends her days tending the lighthouse, and making sure the flame is always lit. She also manages to get herself involved in a little bit of intrigue when Julius Caesar arrives in Alexandria. Sophia’s dear friend, Cleopatra, is also caught up in the intrigue, as are a group of ancient scholars. Things get really interesting when Caesar sends one of his soldiers to occupy the lighthouse.

I didn’t realize at the time, but Guardian of the Flame is actually book three in the Seven Wonders series. They need not be read in order.

Shadow of Colossus is set in 227 BC., on the island of Rhodes. As a hetaera (a courtesan) to one of the most powerful men on the island, Tessa of Delos has something no other hetaera has: the respect and admiration of every man in power. She’s intelligent enough and well-spoken enough to make them sit up and listen to her, but a bold decision after her owner dies, plunges her into a very dangerous game. The deception could cost her life if she can’t find a way to escape in time. Then there’s a little matter of an impending earthquake! As you might be able to tell from this gorgeous cover, the Wonder this book centers around is the Colossus of Rhodes.

City of the Dead is among the most interesting books I’ve ever read. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book told entirely from a male point of view. It’s extremely well done and, like the cover suggests, centers around the Great Pyramid of Giza. Told from the viewpoint of Hemiunu, the man who designed the pyramid, as he tries to find a murderer, this book is a fascinating insight into the people of ancient Egypt.

Marduk’s Tablet is not a Seven Wonders book. But it’s every bit as good as the others. This book is actually set in the present day, where a young woman is hired to transcribe an ancient tablet believed to have powers. The storyline kept me on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t stop reading until I finished because I couldn’t sleep until I knew if the tablet really had special powers. Just a small warning here – there are a few scenes that appear to have supernatural happenings. They’re very good scenes, but they could be disturbing to people like me who have overactive imaginations. But then, I can scare myself just walking through my house in the dark.

These next two books are not part of the Seven Wonders, either. I really have no words to tell you just how much I loved reading Pompeii: City on Fire, and Petra: City of Stone. These are my absolute favorite T.L. Higley books, with Pompeii edging Petra by a slight margin. It's kind of like choosing between chocolate and a lemon bar. I love them both, but I'll always chose the lemon bar.

Pompeii’s heroine, Ariella, a Jewish slave, quickly became my favorite heroine ever. Brave and innovative, she trades one kind of slavery for another when she disguises herself as a boy and becomes a gladiator. While fighting with the hope of one day winning her freedom, she catches the eye of a man who’s trying to change the political climate of Pompeii. And in the background, there’s something brewing that is far more dangerous than gladiators, slave owners or corrupt politicians…Vesuvius.

Perhaps the most vivid parts of Petra, set in the first century, are the descriptions of a city carved out of stone. As in the other books, these characters waste no time eliciting your undivided attention. Cassia is a young mother desperately trying to rescue her son before an evil queen can make good on her promise to destroy him. One thing I loved about this book was the author’s depiction of the power of God as His people are being persecuted.

There’s another Seven Wonders book coming soon, and I just discovered a book on T.L. Higley’s website that I haven’t read yet. I can’t wait. Biblical truth, a rich and powerful history, intrigue, and adventure set against amazing backdrops – T.L. Higley

You can visit T.L.Higley’s website to learn more about her books, the history behind them, and her adventures as she researches them.


http://www.tlhigley.com/pages/SevenWonders.php
http://nopassportrequired.tlhigley.com/books/
http://nopassportrequired.tlhigley.com/category/blog/recent-posts/

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tiffany Colter: What I’ve learned from Failure?

by Anita Mae Draper

I would like to introduce Tiffany Colter who as a speaker and business consultant, speaks to people of all walks of life and not just writers although she's the owner of the Writing Career Coach. She sounds like a successful business woman - and she is. But I've cried each time I've watched the video (below) of her journey to this point in her life. Please welcome Tiffany for sharing with us today...


What I’ve learned from Failure?
by Tiffany Colter

Wow, that’s pretty odd for a title, don’t you think?

It was very hard for me to write too. Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak knows that I don’t burn my candle at both ends…oh, no. That is far too slow. I just chuck the entire candle in to the flames and watch it all flash up at once. That is far more efficient. Laugh. Burnout all at once.



I realize that most of you reading this aren’t writers and so talking about writing isn’t helpful. That’s fine. As my company, Writing Career Coach, has grown to include more speaking, and business coaching I find that I’m becoming less and less of a writer too. As an introverted person I’m having to learn how to mingle in rooms of people and cold call sales prospects. I think I passed my comfort zone about 3 states ago. Many days I wake up nervous and feeling like I’m failing in one area or another.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not a great mom. Sometimes I want to be a better wife. Then I wonder if my parents and grandparents and siblings actually think I care at all. There are mornings I have emails from clients asking the status on a project and I’m racked with guilt because—although not due yet—I’m behind on my own timeline. I look at my blog and I realize I haven’t been posting as I should.

The list of things I’m not doing up to my own standards can go on…and on…and on…

Usually these things are self-inflicted guilt trips where I haven’t actually messed up to others, I’ve only failed to reach my own unreasonable expectations.

Then there are times where I really blow it. I fail. I mess up. I fall short.

I was nearly a straight A student in College (in the Honors College of my university no less). I believed that near perfection would insulate me from pain. I was rewarded with accolades, awards, recognition from the professors, invitations to exclusive events, scholarships and so much more! The university seemed to promise that if I kept going I’d be fail-proof. That wasn’t reality though.

Life happened and, while I have a good life, it isn’t the blissful perfection I’d thought I’d created. There were no guarantees. Hard work didn’t promise good results.

Then four years ago I started a new project—my own company.

I learned about failure. I learned that it refined me. I learned that it exposed areas where I needed to learn more. I learned that I was too confident in my own abilities and needed to give others a chance to do things for me.

I had to learn to be:
• Humble
• Give and receive grace
• Have hope [confident expectation of good] in spite of circumstances.

I had to learn I can only control the process I’m a part of. I cannot control the outcome.

I had to learn to let go.

Sometimes I had to allow myself to fail.

I want to be clear. I’m not talking about being lazy, but each of us have areas we seek absolute perfection and allow ourselves no breathing room.

You may try to put your kids in so many activities that it is impossible to get everyone to their events on time.

You may strive for a standard of living that is impossibly high at this stage in your career and thus force yourself in to unnecessary stress.

You may want to write a book, start a company, organize a group, or run a non-profit without ever having a bad day or unpleasant outcome.

Or maybe you are trying to make a child or spouse perfect to create a perfect world for you.

What I learned about failure is that it is one way I can see what I need to learn. It is also an indication that I’m trying to do too much.

Recently I had to take a step back and look at my failures. Where was I failing to meet my own expectations? Where was I failing to meet the expectations of others? Where was I failing to meet the expectations I’d PUT IN THE MIND OF OTHERS?

I realized I was on the fast track to crash and burn. I had to pull back from what I was doing, become more efficient, say no to a few things (including the unrealistic expectations from family) and I had to move forward without guilt.

I often tell my clients to focus on their strengths and the things that only they can do.

Only I can encourage my 4 daughters with a smile and a nod.

Only I can spend date night with my husband on Mondays.

Only I can determine what direction this company will go.

Those are the main things I need to focus on. That means if I fail to make a gourmet dinner and instead let my 10 year old make Grilled Cheese and Mac and Cheese for her sisters, it’s okay.

That means if I have to tell a client that I cannot drop everything to move their project on my calendar today, that is a failure to reach expectations I’ll have to accept.

That means if my finances don’t allow me to buy cool costumes for the girls at the store, I won’t feel guilty about it.

It means if I can’t please everyone, I have to be okay with that too.

So, if you want to help yourself and grow start by forgiving other people when they fail you. When your fries are cold, be kind to the person behind the counter. When you’re irritated by traffic, thank God you have a place to go and a way to get there. When your kids mess up in school or lie about who cut the couch, recognize it is their fear of failing you that brings these behaviors.

And after you’ve learned to forgive the failings of others, forgive your failures.

That will deprive them of strength and allow you to find the nuggets of truth, the lessons hidden in the failure.

That is when they’ll lose their sting and you’ll see them as the birth place of new ideas.

I no longer seek to be a straight A business owner. I take risks. I say, “Well, that was a $400 lesson. I know not to do that again.” And then I move on.

It wasn’t always that way. I had to go to my darkest place as you can see in this youtube video from 2 ½ years ago when things were starting to turn around for me.




What lessons have you learned from your failure? What lessons could you be learning if it didn’t scare you so much?


Come to my website and see if you can learn from any of my lessons [experiences that were once failures]. I’d also love to get to know you on FB. Come friend me and we can learn together.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tiffany Colter is an award winning writer whose credits include Today’s Christian, Charisma Magazine, Toledo Business Journal, regular columns for Afictionado E-zine and the Suspense Magazine where she writes the “Ask your Writing Career Coach” column.

For Tiffany, writing is about a relationship. It is more than stories. More than communication. It is even more than a way to make a living. Writing is about connecting with people and understanding them where they are. As a business owner, making this connection is imperative to the success of your company. Words evoke feelings. They engage your senses. They change you.

She earned her BA in Political Science from the University of Toledo’s Honor’s College in 1998. She earned a Summa cum Laude distinction and was inducted in numerous honor societies, including Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key.

She is the owner of The Writing Career Coach and Writing Career Coach Press. Tiffany teaches and speaks on connecting with your target market through written communication at live events and through online workshops. She served as coordinator of The Master Seminars for Chip MacGregor, and serves as a judge for multiple writing contests.

Whether you are a business owner trying to communicate your message, a teacher or speaker who wants to transform their spoken words in to book form, or an aspiring novelist who is just learning to navigate the ocean of publication. Tiffany and her team work together to understand where you are and where you’re going.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

LONGING FOR MORE



Hebrews Chapter 11 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It talks about the Old Testament heroes of the faith, of Abel and Enoch and Noah, of. Of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of Joseph and Rahab and many others. It talks about the bold steps each of them took because they trusted God and believed what they could not yet see. And, what's more, sometimes they believed what they never would see.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

I don't know about you, but that's sometimes hard for me to comprehend. These people lived by their faith. They have stood for thousands of years as our shining examples, our faith heroes, and yet they did not receive the things God Himself had promised them? How could that be? Did they do something wrong?

And yet, looking a little further, we see that the whole thing is merely a matter of perspective. They saw these things not in view of the tiny glimmer that was their mortal lives, but from God's perspective and in the light of eternity.

14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

I've been on a bit of a C. S. Lewis/Chronicles of Narnia tear the last little while, so it's easy for me to be reminded of one of his characters when I consider these particular heroes. If you have read Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader or The Last Battle, you are no doubt familiar with Reepicheep, the valiant, noble and sometimes ridiculously brave little mouse. (I always laugh when I read the part where they encounter a fire-breathing dragon, and Caspian has to tell Reepicheep very sternly indeed, ". . . you are not going to attempt a single combat with it.")

More than anything, tiny Reepicheep wants to go into Aslan's country (the Narnian equivalent of heaven). Ever since he was a mouseling, he has longed for it more than any honor or adventure he can find in his own world, even though it's abundantly clear that honor and adventure are of utmost importance to him. And, when he is at last given the opportunity to go to Aslan's country, he happily flings away his sword, knowing he has no more need of it, and sails away, like Enoch being taken away so that he never experienced death.

As flawed as the recent Dawn Treader movie is, especially in telling the spiritual parts of Lewis's tale, one thing they got absolutely right was the look on Reepicheep's face as he leans eagerly forward in his little coracle, catching the wave that takes him forever out of sight. In spite of my best efforts, that moment always brings tears to my eyes. It perfectly captures that longing in my heart, too.


I can understand his eagerness for that better country where everything makes sense and faith becomes sight. There are many things that I have believed for and felt very clearly that God has promised me, but I haven't seen some of them. I don't know if I will see them before I die. But I know that His promises are true, and they will come to pass in His time and in His way.

All I need to do is trust in Him and live in a way that He is not ashamed to be called my God.



Are there things you're believing for that you haven't yet seen?

Who are your faith heroes?



DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with four spoiled cats.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Welcome Author K. Dawn Byrd


Today we welcome guest author K. Dawn Byrd to Inkwell Inspirations to share about her writing experience with her latest release. Take it away, K. Dawn.

You asked me to tell you something I learned while writing this book. I learned that sometimes a story takes a life of its own and carries me away to places I'd never planned. This Time for Keeps started out as a WWII romance, but ended up becoming a modern day one. My characters gradually took shape and become people I didn't expect them to be, especially my hero, Chase. I'd never planned for him to ride into town on a Harley on a stormy night, but he did. I'd never planned for him to have been previously married and his first wife to have died of cancer, but somehow it happened. I'd also never planned for Chase, the guy who left India a decade ago, without as much as a goodbye, to be so loving and compassionate, and to want her back so badly, but he did.

A love triangle takes shape when Chase rides back into town on the night that India has just become engaged to another man. After taking one look at Chase and experiencing all the heart pounding emotions of love and attraction, she begins to question her feelings for her fiancée. Sometimes, I think there's a little bit of this story in all of us. I'm happily married to a wonderful man who I love very much. I'm glad God gave me what I needed when He gave me him. But, I think everyone sometimes wonders what would have happened if they'd built a life with a certain someone. Looking back, I'm so glad I didn't and that God knew what was best for me and that I chose to follow after God's heart.
LINKS:
My website: www.kdawnbyrd.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 K. Dawn Byrd is an author of inspirational romance and romantic suspense. This Time for Keeps is her fourth release in two years with four more books to follow in 2012. Mistaken Identity, her first young adult romance released on June 15 from Desert Breeze Publishing. She enjoyed writing it so much that she'll have four more young adult releases in 2012. The sequel to Mistaken Identity, Shattered Identity, will release in June and a college-age romance/mystery series, The Zoe Mack Mystery Series, will release in January with others to follow in June and December.
K. Dawn is an avid blogger and gives away several books per week on her blog at www.kdawnbyrd.blogspot.com, most of which are signed by the authors. She's also the moderator of the popular facebook Christian Fiction Gathering group at http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=128209963444.
When not reading or writing, K. Dawn enjoys spending time with her husband of 16 years while walking their dogs beside a gorgeous lake near her home and plotting the next story waiting to be told.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thanks for visiting with us today, K. Dawn. What about the rest of you out there? Authors, have you ever had a book take an unexpected twist? Readers, have you ever wondered what if you took a different path in life?





Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Romance of the Claddagh


by Susanne Dietze

As far as my heritage goes, I’m only marginally Irish. The Emerald Isle calls to me, nevertheless. After all, it’s a land of many things that appeal to me, like castles, lore, and Celtic saints.

I love a good Claddagh ring story, too.

How can I not? These traditional Irish rings are as symbolic as they are lovely. Through the years, they’ve been used to express relational commitment (from friendship to marriage) and they’ve come to represent pride in Irish heritage. Claddagh rings are also precious heirlooms, often passed down through the generations.

I’m a writer, so I love this sort of symbolism. Family, romance, culture all bound in one sentimental object—that’s romance-writing gold, and I’m not talking about the leprechaun kind. Claddagh rings are the whole package. No Irish-set chick flick worth its popcorn would (SPOILER ALERT!) dare leave one out of its big proposal scene.

(I don't care if it's cliche. I love it anyway.)

I don’t own a Claddagh ring, but I’m guessing we’ve all seen them before. Its unique design features two hands (symbolizing friendship) clasping a heart (love) topped by a crown (loyalty).

And when we see a Claddagh ring, we can tell something relationship-wise about the wearer.

When worn on the right ring finger with the heart pointing to the fingertip, the wearer is not romantically involved.

On the same finger with the ring pointing towards the wearer, it suggests he or she is romantically involved.

When the ring is on the ring finger of the left hand, it means the person is married or engaged.

Something this emblematic must have an ancient history, of course. The rings must be a tradition steeped in Celtic culture.

Well, not quite.

Claddagh rings were first created in Claddagh, Galway around 1700—supposedly in the silver shop of one Richard Joyce, whose mark appears on one of the oldest Claddagh rings known. According to legend, however, Mr. Joyce was a fisherman before he was a silver smith. He was minding his own business out at sea when he was captured by pirates. The cutthroats sold him as a slave to a Turkish goldsmith.

Poor Joyce was doomed. Would he ever return to Galway, or see his family again?

Despite his grief and fear, he must have made an impression on his master, because the Turk grew so fond of Joyce that he trained him in the craft. Joyce excelled, but he didn't forget the relationships and home he left behind.
Eventually, King William III arranged a release for captives, but the Turk begged Joyce to remain with him. He even offered his (surely attractive) daughter’s hand in marriage. Ever loyal to his homeland, however, Joyce declined, returning to Galway and the life he’d left behind. (Well, except the fishing part.)

View from Dún Aengus in Galway
Perhaps Joyce fashioned the symbolic rings to honor the things that kept him going during those years stolen from him by slavery: loyalty to his home, the bonds of family, and the joy of friendship. Perhaps Joyce didn’t invent the rings—which came to be known after the town of their origin—at all. Other rings of a similar style exist from the same time period bearing the marks of other smiths.

Their stories just aren’t as dashing.

Regardless of who fashioned the first Claddagh ring, they were slow to catch on until the mid-1800’s. By the time Queen Victoria received one in 1849, Dublin goldsmiths were also creating them. They served as heirlooms, passed from a mother to her daughter on her wedding day. Their popularity has increased exponentially, and today they’re worn the world over, by Irish and non-Irish alike.

Claddagh rings serve as a reminder that friendship, love, and loyalty are key components in our most important relationships. Like wedding and promise rings, they are tangible prompts that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and we are bound to uphold our promises—to our spouse, to our children, to ourselves.

And through the legend, they remind me that despite the difficult circumstances I face in life, God is with me. Just as Joyce was inspired to make a pretty ring to honor the values he clung to while enslaved, God uses all of my dark days for His good, and I'm more mindful of His blessings.

Regardless of whether or not Mr. Joyce invented Claddagh rings, I like to think of him in his shop, working at his trade. In my imaginings, he’s toasty warm as he hovers around the forge, belly full and heart thankful. And he’s smiling as he creates something meaningful, inspired by a time of loss.

Have you seen how God has turned darkness to good in your life?

Susanne Dietze has written love stories set in the nineteenth century since she was in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Her work has finaled in the Genesis Contest, the  Gotcha! Contest, and the Touched By Love Contest. You can visit her on her personal blog, Tea and a Good Book, http://www.susannedietze.blogspot.com/.

Photos courtesy of www.wikipedia.com